Montreal Canadiens enforcer John Scott started his final game of the 2015-16 season lined up next to legendary Jaromir Jagr on Tuesday.
It was an act that caught the 33-year-old Scott off-guard, but one he was grateful for.
“I was surprised to find out that I was in the starting lineup. That was a nice gesture,” Scott said. “That’s just what this organization here in Montreal is all about. It is a classy organization and I don’t deserve any of this. To put me out there for the starting lineup, that was really, really nice. I wasn’t expecting any of that to happen.”
Scott finished a whirlwind season that included an NHL All-Star Game selection through a viral internet fan vote, a trade to the Habs, a trip to the minors and an All-Star Game MVP selection with Tuesday’s contest against the Florida Panthers, a 4-1 loss by Montreal.
“It would have been nice to have gone out with a win. But I was mostly just hoping for a good crowd and a good atmosphere and the fans certainly didn’t disappoint. I had a lot fun out there,” Scott said.
On Sunday, Scott was called up from the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate in St. John’s Newfoundland for the game.
Scott played 9:01, often to the roars of Habs fans at the Bell Centre. He had three hits, two penalty minutes and zero shots on goal. Scott also flashed some skill and made a nice pass to teammate Paul Byron for a scoring chance in the first period.
The Panthers also scored on the Canadiens 10 seconds into the game with Scott on the ice.
“You never want to give up a goal on the first shift,” Scott said. “You just gotta move on. You can’t really dwell on it.”
After the game, coach Michel Therrien said Scott was given the choice to return to his home in Michigan to be with his wife and children, or go back to St. John’s for the rest of the AHL slate. He chose to go to Michigan.
“It’s a fairly emotional moment for me right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen next and it’s very emotional. You are always aware of the fans during an NHL game. You can hear the crowd, especially in this building,” Scott said. “The fans in Montreal are always loud and they pay close attention to the games. It’s nice to be acknowledged by the crowd for making a good play.”
Said Therrien, “Ever since he first joined our organization he’s been nothing but a real pro. He was great with the young kids over in St. John’s. It’s been a unique season for him as we all know and we wanted to do the right thing. We wanted to give him the opportunity to start and to finish the game on the ice. Tonight was special for John, so we wanted to therefore make sure that we handled tonight the right way.”
Scott’s NHL playing future is currently uncertain. He’s nearing the end of a one-year $575,000 contract and the enforcer position is dying out with fights down around the league. In 286 career games, Scott has five goals, six assists and 544 career penalty minutes.
Even if Scott's NHL career is over, he’ll have plenty of options outside of playing hockey. A movie about Scott is currently in the works, with a screenplay written by Mitch Albom.
“I think it’s always important to realize that we are just normal people,” Scott said. “People put us up on these pedestals and they expect us to be like perfect humans, but I go home to my family just like everyone else in this locker-room. And we all have feelings and stuff like that. You know, it’s a good lesson. But again, whatever, I’m getting paid to play hockey so it’s not a bad thing.”
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